In Wage Talks, Factories Refuse to Budge

Negotiations for a minimum wage increase between garment factory owners and union leaders continued on Wednesday at the Ministry of Social Affairs with the factory owners refusing to top their initial offer of an $11 hike. 

During negotiations on Tuesday, factory owners offered to increase the monthly wage from the current $61 to $72, a far cry from the $120 figure the unions had asked for.

Though the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) refused to budge from its offer on Wednesday, the unions lowered their demands, asking for $100 instead.

“We wanted to be flexible with our position,” said Chuom Mom­thol, president of the Cambodia Confederation of Trade Union, after the two-hour negotiations on Wednesday.

Ath Thorn, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union, pointed out that GMAC’s proposal of $72 was really only an increase of $6, as the other $5 is actually a new government-mandated health benefit.

“This [$100] is our final figure. If we cannot get this amount, it will be hard,” Mr. Thorn said. “If this doesn’t work, we will meet up and perhaps hold a demonstration.”

Nang Sothy, vice chairman of the Labor Advisory Council, said that with more than 750,000 workers in Cambodia’s garment and shoe factories, even a $1 increase would cost manufacturers $750,000 a month, making it impossible for the factories to make a profit.

“Just a dollar increase is around $750,000 increased in a month, and in one year, we will increase around $4 million,” he said, adding that this amount does not yet factor in overtime.

“We wish to organize a working group for all the parties concerned to sit down. When we can find out the effects of $90, or $100, or $120, then we can [put this wage] into effect,” Mr. Sothy said, adding that the unions’ claim that factories make enough to pay workers $120 a month is not true.

“We should sit down together and see really how much [the factories] make,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Dene-Hern Chen)

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